Getting into the Jog Cart
You will be taking the lines, which are hanging from the water-hook on top of the harness from the left side of the horse. Someone will be helping you hitch the jog cart to the horse.
Once the horse is hooked to the jog cart, you then step to the rear of the cart and put your rump on the seat from the left side of the jog cart. Then you swivel into the seat and extend both legs into the stirrups. At this point, the horse will have started to walk.
The lines (not reins) should be held a little loose because the horse knows the routine and will probably just walk away slowly.
When walking to the track you should be very aware of work being done around the barn so that you keep your horse away from horses coming into the area, being bathed, etc. The other horse always has the right of way.
Walk the horse onto the track turning to the left and staying up high on the outside of the track. If another horse is coming at you from the right, he will hopefully go around you, but it is always a good idea to keep an eye on other horses in the same area.
Obviously, you are going clockwise. Horses that are training for speed, stay down along the inside of the track and go counterclockwise. They always have the right of way.
Now that you are on the track
By this time, you should gradually tighten your lines, so the horse knows he is to walk. Most good horsemen/horsewomen usually train their horses to walk about 50 yards before starting to trot. Sometimes more, sometimes less; but you want the horse to know that you will let him/her know when it is time to go a little faster. You can generally sense when the horse is beginning to get “antsy” wanting to keep up with the horses going around him.
Depending on the horse, some trainers have been known to make the horse walk around the track one full time, just so the horse does not get into a “habit,” plus it helps to keep the horse calm. You want the horse to remain calm until they are turning for home in a training mile or a race. It is only then that you want them to feel the adrenalin.
Generally, you will know how fast you should be jogging based on how fast the other horses on the track are going. Most trainers prefer to have their horses jog a little slow, rather than fast, however some horses like to jog fast and fighting them to make them go slower sometimes only makes them mad and they try to go faster.
The faster you jog the horse the more you move toward the middle of the track. Slower horses should always be on the outside. If you are passing a horse, you should go to the right unless the other horse is too far towards the center of the track, so then you will pass him on the left. This is not an ironclad rule and you will find that horses are passing others on both sides. The most important thing is not to run into someone else. It is sometimes a free-for-all out there, so just stay cautious and safe.
Sometimes the biggest problem is staying awake, not watching “directly” in front of your horse and running right up on the rear of another jogger.
Some trainers count the laps to determine how far to jog, and some use a watch. The rule of thumb is one-half hour, or five miles. And, some trainers judge how far to go by the horse, but it is usually at least a half hour and/or five miles. If the horse seems strong, go a little more. If he seems a little tired, or bored, give him an easy day.
Sometimes a lazy horse will occasionally want to come off the track and try to fool you by gradually moving towards the entrance to the track (referred to as “the gate”). Do not let him, and just keep him going straight. Good trainers will take their horses on and off at different gates to keep them from getting into the habit of coming on and going off at the same gate.
NOTE: If your horse ever takes off running (which seldom happens), or going much faster than he should, you should take a firm grip on the lines/bit, but never pull hard or constantly pull on the lines. This can result in making the horse hard-mouthed, and he may lose respect for the bit from that time forward.
[Shortly after I got into the horse business, I had a nice young horse with a mouth like silk, but one day something scared him, and he started running. I got scared for both myself and the horse and started yelling “whoa, whoa, whoa”, and pulling back hard on the bit. He and I found out very quickly that a little steel bit will not stop a half-ton horse if he is scared. From that point on, the horse was very hard to drive and control. I did not have the advantage of learning how to train from a family member or friend, so had to learn everything at my and the horse’s expense. I have always felt guilty for screwing up what would have been a very good fast horse.]
Just keep the horse in the middle of the track, both feet in the stirrups, and a firm grip on the lines. You can make short firm tugs on the lines, but if it does not seem to help, just hang on and keep out of trouble. The horse will eventually tire and slow down.
Exiting the track
Generally, you should start slowing your horse down about 100 yards before coming off the track. Begin merging to the left (outside of the track), then about 50 yards before coming off slow the horse to a walk. Look ahead to the gate for other horses coming onto the track or exiting. Always try to give the right of way to any horses around you. If everyone did that, which most do, it would make it much safer. Ninety-nine and a half percent of the time everything goes smoothly for everyone, but if something does happen it can be catastrophic.
Walk the horse to the barn and stop in front of the horse’s stall and get off the jog cart the same way you got on. Always keep the lines in your right hand while unhitching the left side of the jog cart just in case something spooks the horse and he wants to run off. That way you can jump back on the jog cart and have some control. This seldom happens, but it has happened, and one time is too many. “An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.”
Once you have the jog cart unhooked from the left side, hang up your lines and walk around the front to the other side of the horse and unhook the right side, always keeping a line in hand. Push and drop the jog cart toward the back of the horse placing it as far behind the horse as possible, so as to keep him from stepping on the shaft, which may scare him, and away he goes. Walk back around the front of the horse to the left side and grab the left line, leading the horse back into the stall.
Posture in the jog cart
It is imperative that while on the jog cart you look the part. Look relaxed and confident, even though you may be scared to death.
Keep both feet in the stirrups, until such time as you feel comfortable dropping one foot. This position makes you look even more confident.
Females (some females) are famous for extending their arms straight out in front of them elevated to a point where they look like their arms may fall off. Many also tend to lean forward to the point where they may fall out of the front. Both of these are unacceptable. Yes, you can sit erect, but leaning a little back is preferable, and slumping is just fine, as long as you are slumping backward with your lower back while slumping forward with your shoulders. Lines should be held no further than one foot from the front of your body and six to twelve inches from your lap. A cigarette hanging from your mouth is acceptable (LOL). Look around the track at your peers and try to emulate those who look like they know what they are doing.
You may also break the ice with your neighbors with a nod of the head, a good-morning, or just plain “Hi” (saying “Hello” sounds a little too formal). Also, when talking with your neighbor, be certain to keep the tone of your voice at its lowest point. Squeaky voices just do not get it on the racetrack.
If someone says, “What is that”, they are usually referring to the animal’s lineage. In the case of an older horse, you just say, “He is just an old campaigner, been turned out for a while and we’re just starting back with him,” or whatever the case might be. If they ask you anything else, just mumble, start looking at his legs like there is something wrong, and move on.
Relaxed and comfortable clothing is the order of the day when jogging a horse.